As we start to age it is natural that we begin to become more aware of our, and our loved ones, physical and mental health. We may start attempting to spot signs of ageing and illness, and, as one of the fastest growing diseases in the elderly, the most common concern is dementia.
So, what are the early warning signs of dementia?
By far the most well-known symptom of dementia is memory-loss, and for early signs it is short-term memory that you need to pay most attention to. This can be forgetting recent conversations or what was eaten for breakfast this morning, as opposed to a forgetting an event that happened some time ago. However, remember that memory loss affects us all at some point, so it is only when this short-term memory loss starts to happen regularly that it may become cause for concern.
Struggling to find the right word to say or not remembering the correct word for something can be a sign of dementia. Similarly, replacing a correct word with an incorrect one can also indicate an issue.
Difficulty Completing Common Tasks
This will often start with a marked change in ability to undertake more complex tasks, like playing certain games, and will then develop to difficulty in completing simple, familiar tasks, such as putting away laundry. Additionally, a person may begin to struggle to learn and carry out new tasks or instructions.
Due to the loss of memory a person with dementia starts to experience, they may begin to repeat questions or re-tell the same story, as well as repeating tasks.
Struggling with Change
Dealing with the early stages of dementia can be incredibly terrifying for a person, as they find themselves suddenly unable to remember what they did earlier on in the day or forgetting the name of a loved one. As this starts to happen they may begin to crave routine and structure as this gives them a sense of control. Therefore, it makes sense that any sudden change to that routine may agitate or distress them.
Losing Sense of Direction
People in the early stage of dementia may begin to lose their sense of direction, finding it difficult to navigate a route that they have previously known very well, or start to not recognise familiar landmarks. Similarly, following new directions may become difficult.
Confusion is a common sign of early dementia due to difficulties with memory and judgement. As memory-loss starts to develop, people with dementia may become increasingly confused with the world around them, as they try to negotiate unfamiliar people and struggle to keep up and join in with conversation.
Whilst we have all at some points misplaced our keys or phone, doing this often, and putting the items in bizarre places, such as a wallet in the washing machine, can be a signifier of dementia.
A common symptom of early dementia is mood change, most specifically depression, often with sharp mood swings. So, someone could be calm and happy one minute, and then burst into tears the next, for seemingly no reason. They may also experience a change in personality, perhaps becoming more extroverted than before.
It is important to note that whilst these symptoms can be an early indicator of dementia, experiencing any of these does not mean you, or a loved one, definitely has the disease. If you have any concerns you should visit a GP and undertake a full assessment.